I'm reading about the tragedy in Haiti this morning and thinking about the sheer amount of work that'll be required to get this nation back on its feet. That may be one heck of a goal considering many feel this nation really wasn't on stable footing to begin with—extreme poverty, history of military coups, and tendency to be hit with natural disasters on a regular basis.
Despite the implausible, most of the world is scrambling to help. The U.S. military already has arrived with aid. Other countries are being held back in delivering aid by the lack of functioning infrastructure in Haiti.
Like most people, I try to relate to what's going on in Haiti by imagining how I might react if such an event struck my hometown. It just so happens that my family sort of has an emergency plan should a catastrophic event hit northern Illinois, cutting off communication and leaving everyone with a need to relocate temporarily. We're meeting at a family friend's home in Madison, Wis., even if it means walking, I guess.
That led me to think my company's emergency preparedness plan. Unless I'm out of the loop, which I might be, I don't think we have one. The company handles the random blizzard quite well, but a catastrophic event that might force the relocation of employees or the short-term closing of the office building really hasn't been addressed to my knowledge.
I remember the days following Hurricane Katrina's landing in New Orleans in 2005. Most of the news found in general media was about the evacuation and subsequent damage the city endured. However, the news about how people, at least the people who could, go back to a seminormal life was overlooked.
For example, I remember reading about how Kenner, La.-based Pellerin Milnor Corp., a manufacturer of large commercial washers and dryers, had set up temporary dorms on its campus because some of its employees had damaged homes that weren't ready to be reoccupied. This arrangement kept production rolling and customers happy.
I'm sure a lot of the company's post-Katrina actions were done on-the-fly, but I'm pretty certain that the event also has led to some sort of documented emergency preparedness plan. I wonder if other companies have even given this type of scenario any thought.
For kicks, you could visit this site and follow the advice of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), a name that's not entirely welcomed in south Louisiana. By following the FEMA outline, your company should be ready for any scenario, including an alien invasion.
Of course, your company could take some simpler steps that would put it in a situation to bounce back from a large catastrophic event:
- Make sure you back up the company's software and keep that backup off-site. With today's online backup services, this is an easy thing to accomplish. That data arguably might be the company's most important non-human asset.
- Establish relationships with nearby manufacturing companies that might be able to absorb your company's work if your facility is unable to handle production needs. This keeps customers happy and shows that you value their business, even to the point of putting them ahead of your company's own needs.
- Find out which employees live close to one another, so that some sort of physical communication can take place. Strong hurricanes that blow through Baton Rouge, La., typically knock out phone service for a couple of days, and mobile phone service is usually out of commission longer. Don't expect traditional communication lines to be open the moments after a natural disaster.
Of course, that's not a plan, but it's something to think about. Hopefully, your company will never have to implement such a plan once it's pieced together.